Every now and then you need a treat, right? And I bet cupcakes are high on the list for a lot of you. Well, a very talented Northern Rivers lady called Dors Koon does ah-maaaazing cupcakes that are both gluten and dairy free. Her business, Nuni Sweet Treats (which stands for No Unnatural, Nasty Ingredients), supplies all the best cafes around town, and they are my go-to comfort food when I’m out and about and feeling a little bit naughty.
Dors was born in Mauritius and come from a family of 7 with Chinese and Indian heritage. Easy to see how she became a food fanatic! She came to Australia when she was 18 to study Exercise and Health Science, and after several office jobs and even a stint as a Virgin Blue flight attendant, she fell pregnant and with her daughter Aki and now juggles motherhood with a thriving work from home business.
Whereabouts do you live?
Lennox Head, NSW
Why did you start this business?
My daughter, Aki, was diagnosed with eczema at the age of one and a half while I was still breast-feeding her. Her doctor and naturopath recommended a no gluten and no dairy diet, which I obviously also had to adopt. It was easy enough to make the change for savoury foods, but there was nothing even close to good for the sweet stuff without going raw (which she mostly can’t have anyway as she’s allergic to cashews – d’oh!).
I decided then that there was no way that she (or I) would potentially have to go through life without eating cake. And so the obsession began with internet and recipes trolling, followed by lots and lots of trial and error (tears and spatula throwing). Eating organic and whole foods where possible was already a lifestyle choice at the time, therefore it was never an option when I decided to turn my baking into a business.
Tell me a little about what you do
I’m a single mum of a spirited 4yo, who practically runs my life when I’m not running my baking business from the home kitchen which is slowly looking more and more like a semi-commercial kitchen! I’m still a one-woman show, creating cupcakes, whole cakes, brownies, friands and sweet tarts to sell at selective cafés around the Byron-Ballina shire. I also often take special cake orders for weddings, birthdays and special events.
The ingredients I use for my products are completely certified GM-free if not certified organic, gluten- and dairy-free as well as absolutely no refined sugars. Instead, I use a lot of coconut nectar sugar, maple sugar/syrup, raw honey, unrefined cane sugar (rapadura, demerara, raw, panela) and birch sugar, also known as xylitol which come from birch bark or non-GM corn. I do make cake after all!
I make my own vegan butter consisting mainly of cacao butter to make my unique “buttercream.” Pure Harvest rice milk, InsideOut almond milk and Spiral coconut milk and cream are my go-to non-dairy milks due to their outstanding quality and taste. I use my own gluten free flour mix consisting of brown rice flour, buckwheat flour, sorghum flour, potato starch, and tapioca starch. Almond flour (blanched almond meal) is also a staple.
I prioritise sourcing my ingredients from local businesses and reducing wastage – for instance, I don’t use disposable cake and cupcake containers unless absolutely necessary. Ethical sources and fair trade are also important to me.
My aim always was and still is to recreate “conventional” recipes into gluten- and dairy-free versions while retaining the original/traditional look and taste as much as possible. The challenge of thinking outside the square is what keeps the obsession going, and I love it!
What does a typical day at work look like?
Typical working day (without child):
3-10.30am: 4-5 batches of cupcakes/friands/brownies to bake and frost… And force myself to take a half-decent shot of my work to post on Instagram. Not my forte.
11am-2/3pm: delivery to cafés and shops, that’s also when I get to connect with my clients and drink lots of coffees, LSDs and chai lattes.
3-5.30pm: pick up supplies/ingredients as required, kitchen clean-up, reconcile invoices and payments (ew, admin bore).
The thing with working at home is that you always end up doing something related to work without even trying.
What exciting things are in store for your biz?
Local markets! Photo shoots for website! I have a vision, of course, but given my circumstances, I’m allowing the business to grow organically (Ha!). Aki comes first (only just)…
I have only recently started branching out into tarts and pastries which is so exciting and a novelty to me because I was really stalling from fear of failure (yeah, pfft – go figure). Fruit tarts, chocolate tarts, shortbreads, pies, more desserts! Watch that space.
What’s your favourite healthy gluten free treat?
Seriously, I don’t have one. I “treat” myself to delicious, nutritious and good-looking food on a daily basis. I don’t believe in deprivation, dieting or excess consumption. I do believe in appreciating food for what it is and really enjoying the moment and the experience. Ok, ok – I don’t have treats but I have comfort food. It’s (bloody good) croissant and coffee. Blame the french influence in my up-bringing. I guess that can’t go on your blog, huh?
[Yes it can! -Jules xo]
Are you a juice or a smoothie girl? Favourite concoction?
Juice – beetroot, carrot, ginger and celery.
How do you stay fit, happy and healthy?
I jog/run mostly. Spontaneous dancing with Aki, Bikram yoga when I can fit it in, and I’m usually running late for things.
I try to stay true to myself and that contributes largely to my happiness, it’s a work-in-progress but I know I’m on the right track 😉 Good food generally makes me really happy though. “Healthy” to me is subjective. I do what I feel and have worked out is right for my body, mind and soul. Whatever that is may change over time and I go with it.
Favourite healthy place to eat out?
We’re spoilt where we live… So many! But Japanese food tend to agree with me all year round. So, O-Sushi for relatively cheap, convenient, fast and delicious take out (not necessarily sushi).
What advice do you have for anyone starting out on a healthy diet?
Define healthy. I do not like to claim that I know what is or isn’t healthy for anyone else but me. I only really know what would likely keep ME happy and in good health. So, I would have to say, listen to your body. It never lies.
You can find Dors and her delicious goodies here:
Or if you are in the Byron Bay area, you will find her cakes at all the best cafes, including Roadhouse, Top Shop, The Belle General, Harvest, Sparrow and Marius.
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